With just 4 days to go before regional elections on October 14th, Bavaria’s conservative party and sister party to Angela Merkel’s CDU, the Christian Social Union (CSU), is reeling. Since July, the CSU, which is accustomed to racking up absolute majorities, has languished below the 40% mark in public opinion surveys. According to most polls, the AfD will receive around 13% of the vote, while the CSU stands to lose more than 10% and the Social Democrats around 8% which means the absolute majority for CSU will be gone.
DW As is the case elsewhere in the country, the rise of the anti-Muslim migration populist Alternative for Germany party (AfD) has eaten into support for traditional conservatives in Germany’s largest state by area.
The AfD has proved disruptive to German politics on a host of levels, and this is a case in point. Worried that it was being outflanked on the right, the CSU made a point of distancing itself from Merkel on key issues, including the chancellor’s welcoming policy toward refugees and migrants.
“The AfD is God’s punishment for the CSU,” says Katrin Ebner-Steiner, the AfD candidate for Deggendorf, to wild applause from the crowd.
The Christian Social Union (CSU), the Bavarian “sister party” to Chancellor Merkel’s CDU, are fighting to keep conservative voters from switching to the right-wing populists, who have found a stronghold of support in Deggendorf. In the 2017 federal elections, the AfD won 18 percent of the town’s support, compared to a Bavaria-wide result of 12.4 percent.
“The impact of the Bavarian state election is immense,” Weidel tells the audience. “The harsher the lesson for the CSU and the stronger the presence of the AfD in Bavaria’s state parliament, the faster the chancellorship of Angela Merkel will come to an end.”
Like others in the tavern, Harald Fischer tells DW that he used to support the CSU but was deeply disappointed with the German government’s response under Merkel to the mass arrival of refugees and asylum-seekers in 2015. He believes the CSU is also to blame. “They’re part of the problem, not the solution. And they’ll have to face the consequences,” he says.
It’s not just the AfD that are treating Bavaria’s state election on October 14 as a referendum on support for Merkel’s government. The CSU has also criticized Berlin politics to try and drum up support for the party as it faces losing its historic absolute majority in the regional parliament.
For CSU supporters, tradition is everything, and their voting patterns reflect this. When asked why they support the party, the most frequent answer is that they vote for the CSU because they’ve always voted for the CSU.
Yet the existence of widespread reservations among the party’s typically stalwart supporters is clearly reflected in the CSU’s current bleak polling figures. The CSU has not received less than 40 percent of the vote since the 1950s.
AA.com The AfD follows its sister parties from the Movement for a Europe of Nations and Freedom, whose members include, for example, the National Rally (formerly the National Front), the Austrian Freedom Party, the Belgian Vlaams Belang, and the Italian Lega (formerly Lega Nord).
With slogans such as “Our country: Our values. Burkas? We love Bikinis!” that reflect the sexist and racist notion of national identity or “Preserve German values: Islam is not part of Germany!” it has made Islamophobia central to its political campaigning.
Another slogan reveals the deeply racist attitude that is especially evocative for its German audience: “German mainstream culture: Islam-Free Schools!”
For the upcoming elections in Bavaria, the AfD has come up with a new set of Islamophobic slogans, such as “Protect Women’s Rights: Schools free of Headscarves”, which invites attacks on Muslim women and pupils who wear the hijab.
However, younger voters in Munich might opt for the far left Greens Party. Various protests against the CSU haven taken place in the Bavarian capital in the lead-up to the October vote. Most recently, on Germany Unity Day, thousands of people marched through the streets of Munich carrying banners lambasting the AfD and the CSU in equal measure.